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It's Mine! Mine! Mine!
By: James Smith
I couldn’t believe it. One hand gripping his toy. The other clinched into a tightened fist. He seemed ready to clobber anyone who came near enough to threaten his prized possession. I don't remember what the toy was, but I'll never forget the spoiled defiance the child displayed as the parent tried to free it from his hand.
The toy was not his. It belonged to another child. The parent, embarrassed, was trying to retrieve it. It was not going to come easy. With feet stomping and face grimaced, he yelled, "It’s mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!"
Spirits come against the Church in all forms. Lust has destroyed many ministries and churches. Jealousy has also brought down his fare share of great congregations. Pride as well has been victorious over many of God’s elect. The list goes on and on. To say it doesn’t is to not face the reality that we are in a great war with evil.
There is another Spirit that has hindered growth in many churches. His name is Mine.
Mine is a proud spirit. In fact, he and Pride work very well together. He does his greatest work in seemingly mature congregants. He works to introduce the spirit of Possessiveness in people’s hearts.
How humble people are when they first come to Christ. On bended knee we repent of past sins and plead with God for a new fleshly heart. For weeks and months we are happy, just to be a part of the Kingdom. Enjoying God’s blessings and the fellowship of his people, we start a wonderful new life.
Everything goes along just as Christ planned it for the new convert. They are growing in newness of Life. They are learning to trust Him and find healing for the wounds in their hearts. Mine however, lurks in the shadows. He hides, waiting for the perfect opportunity to pounce. However, he has no chance as long as Humility fills the heart of the new child of God.
Then it happens. The new church member is asked to get involved. Now this in itself is exactly what is supposed to happen. The call to work in the harvest is to everyone. So with great adulation, they are encouraged to be a part of the ministry of their local congregation. They're asked to teach a Sunday School class, become a greeter at the entrance of the church or play an instrument with the orchestra. Regardless of the place or position, Mine is waiting.
They're humble at first. It may in fact, take several months or even years, but Mine is patient. He knows that if he waits long enough and Pride does his work, he will soon get a chance. He knows in time, that the individual will begin to feel like the ministry they were asked to share in, will soon begin to feel like their own.
The classroom will begin to feel like "Their" classroom. The spot in the choir will begin to feel like "Their" spot. Since there are very few people in the church who can do it, the sound man will begin to feel like that is "His" sound room. In fact, the equipment is his also. The way he does things is "His" way and no one else knows what they are talking about. Now Mine is in control.
Pastors sometimes talk about "Their" church. We say things like, "My People". We teach our churches to allow Mine in when we say, "Our Church" and "Your Ministry".
Is anything truly ours? Are they "Our saints"? Is it really "My Pulpit?" Before anyone would claim ownership to something, they must first pay the price for it. I wonder who purchased anything in Christ's church that He Himself hadn't already purchased with His blood. We would say, I've spent 2 years in this ministry, I deserve the right to lay claim. Or 30 years ago, my wife and I came here when there were only 4 people, but now there is a great congregation of 300 people. These are "My" people.
I’ve been involved in helping a few churches get through some pretty rough spots. In fact, I would say that a couple of them almost closed up. The reason? Mine.
People had been around so long that they got to feeling like their position on the Church Board, was theirs alone. They earned it. Years of service and contributions to their local assemblies had earned them the right to their position. Still others were Music Directors whose talents made them feel like they were unreplacable. The list goes on and on. In each situation, these people feel like no one (Including the Pastor) can tell them what to do. Anyone attempting to usurp “their” position or even suggest that there is a better way is fair game for vicious attacks of gossip, slander, or even spiritual murder.
Once Mine is allowed to work in a church, very little is left untouched by his destructive cunningness. Here is why the Ministry must guard their hearts. If this spirit is allowed to work in our hearts and minds, it will not take long at all before it is working in the hearts of church members. Constantly reminding the congregation of the price Christ paid for the church is a good way to keep Mine out. Letting them know that your own ministry is entrusted to you by God and it is His to remove whenever he wills, gives them an example to follow. Encouraging church leaders to constantly be looking for others to mentor into positions will also help them keep their hearts pure and desirous to see others come into areas of ministry.
If you think about it, you may find Mine at work in some areas of the ministry you are a part of or the church you pastor. He’s been around a long time. He was there when Lucifer took Jesus into the High place and was shown the Kingdoms of the world. He waited and hoped he could get into Jesus’ heart that day. Jesus however had a heart that yielded to the Father. He said, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” He knew that should he lay claim to the Kingdoms, then his example to the church would be to lay dominions in this world and not in the place called Heaven.
Jesus’ example to all of us was to have the heart of a servant. While he washed the disciple’s feet, he was teaching all of us that none of us were the master of another. If our master is the servant, we then are the servants of a servant. Can the servant be greater than his master?
The servant then is owner of nothing. His possessions belong to his master. No matter how long or how hard the servant labors for his master, he will never have the right to call his goods his own. To the servant with the pure heart, this is by no means a problem. His desire is never to his own gain, but only toward the one he serves. He prides himself not in how much he holds, but rather how much he increases his master’s goods.
If his master is a good master, he rewards the servant. That reward may or may not come in the form of goods. It may only be that the servant has the right to live in his master’s home. Or it may be that he gets to enjoy his lord’s favor. His master may consider him family at some point or even entrust that servant with all that he owns. (As was the case with Joseph on two occasions.)
Through the prophet Isaiah, God said he would not "…give his glory to another, neither his praise to graven images" Isa 42:8. Glory can be defined in many ways. Credit, fame, praise, triumph, success, admiration are all forms of Glory. While it is biblical to give honor, it is also biblical to return that praise to the one who rightfully deserves it. That one always being Jesus Christ. When that praise is rightfully returned to the one who paid the price for it, Mine has no entrance and God's glory will be seen by all.
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In his book "How To Increase Giving In Your Church", George Barna gives several key principles for effective stewardship. Our challenge is to create an enviroment and facilitate a mind-set in which people want to donate money to the church for the right reasons. The following are some guidelines toward achieving that outcome.
You are raising money for Life Transformation, not Organizational Survival. Your objective must be to advance the cause of ministry, not to perpetuate the survival of an institution. God can make great things happen in people's lives without an organization through which such ministry happens. Focus on the essential: Seeing lives changed for the glory and purposes of God.
People give to people and causes, not to institutions or programs. If you want to inspire people to become good stewards, help them see themselves as ministers. Their giving is a means of using their resources for the very reason they exist: to know, and serve God with all their hearts, minds, souls and strength. Encourage people to give to the church because it provides opportunities and means of helping people.
Repeat donors must be both inspired and persuaded. Great fund-raisers know how to identify the soft spot that inspires people to give generously. Eliciting such support is more than just finding a "hot button"; it initials penetrating both the head and the heart of the donor. Your goal should be to create a stewardship mind-set. You do not want to have to start from scratch every time you need money; you want to build on a foundation you have worked hard to develop, one that is based on trust, integrity and mutual benefit.
There is no substitute for absolute integrity. None! Honesty, transparency, accessibility - these are the characteristics on which a great stewardship campaign - and genuine, life changing ministry - are based. Integrity is not something to be fooled with. lose it and you will pay a major price for an extended period. Once the people's trust has been violated, the relationship cannot be restored until many years have passed and the donors who were hurt by the infraction are gone. Ministries cannot outlast that era.[ read more...]
A crucial issue for today’s church is communication. At the heart of the Christian faith is the message of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Yet today this message is one of a multitude of messages people are bombarded with daily. Furthermore, the “audience” has changed drastically. Today, the church faces the increasingly difficult task of communicating sacred meaning to a secular audience.
Here’s a check list of things to consider when it comes to evaluating what you’re communicating today as the church amid the rising tide of secularism:
- Keep it simple. Simplify everything from the bulletin to the sermons. You will communicate better with secular people.
- Translate please. Secular people don’t understand the theological jargon we use. You can simplify Biblical terms without sacrificing their integrity.
- Timing is everything. Time is the new currency. Communication must be concise. If people lose focus because of time, they lose the message.
- Take nothing for granted. The average churchgoer often takes for granted the things new people may not understand. The answer? Define what terms mean.
- Define non- negotiables. Some language and practices simply can’t be changed. Define the non-negotiables and then clarify their meaning.
- Maintain your confidence by being in right relationship with God. You can’t be objective or discerning if you’re not in good standing with God. A strong relationship with God gives you the grace and confidence to deal properly with difficult people.
- Remember over- reacting will only accentuate the conflict and confuse the issue.
- Hold realistic expectations. Make sure the difficult person can reach your expectations. You may be expecting him to do or be something that is impossible.
- Quit trying to change the difficult person. Give up your rights and expectations regarding this person. Accept the fact that you can’t change him, but you can change your reactions to him.
- Refuse to play his games. He may attempt to use you or make you feel guilty or obligated. Recognize the emotional games, and don’t participate.
- Don’t allow yourself to become the difficult person’s slave. Be honest with yourself and learn to say no.
- Keep a proper spirit and attitude. Maintaining credibility is the greatest struggle. Don’t let bitterness, anger, or resentment grow.
Here are some simple ways to keep the little things from taking over your life:
- Ask yourself the question, “Will this matter a year from now?” Is what you are worked up over going to matter a year from now? If not, don’t let it destroy you today.
- Practice Humility. The less compelled you are to try to prove yourself to others, the easier it is to feel peace inside.
- Remember that you become what you practice the most. How do you spend your time? What you do is what you become.
- Every day, tell at least one person something you like, admire, or appreciate about them. Telling others that you appreciate them takes almost no effort, but pays enormous dividends.
- Choose your battles wisely. Every circumstance or problem is not worth the fight. There will always be things and people that don’t do right.
- Life is a test. It is only a test. When you look at life as a test, you begin to see each issue as an opportunity to grow.
- Remind yourself that when you die, your “In Basket” won’t be empty. The purpose of life isn’t necessarily to get it all done, but to do the right things.
I can hear my mother still to this day yelling, "Are you listening to me?" Being the single mother of 5 children left her without much patience. I believe much of her frustration as a single, struggling mom, was she felt that no one heard her.
Mom worked all kinds of jobs to try to provide for us kids, so she was not home much. We pretty much raised ourselves. My 4 brothers and sisters were just about as unruly as children left to their own devices could get.
When Mom finally made a pit stop at the house, she would find it in shambles. Then, with the frustration of a mother trying to do her best, but failing miserably, she would simply lose it. "Are you kids listening to me?" The truth of the matter was, we weren't listening to a word she was saying. We were too busy having a blast doing our own thing.
I once read a story of a pastor who was asked by a woman in his church for a few minutes of his time. The pastor agreed to meet with her and while they talked, she said flatly to the pastor, "My father molested me when I was a little girl". Without missing a beat, the pastor said, "I believe you." The woman was shocked! She couldn't believe that someone had finally believed her.
Through tears she said, "For years I have tried to tell my family members, but no one would listen to me". It was such a relief to finally have someone who listened and believed her. The pastor asked, "What can I do for you?" "Nothing she replied, I just needed someone to listen and believe me."
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Matthew 15:18-19; James 4:1-12 There are times when we as Christians are called to arms, as the song goes, “onward Christian solders.” As they said in the Middle Ages, “if the cause is just…”of course most of the causes were not just. But for us, if there is a situation that must be defended, we need to prepare ourselves and be willing to fight for our Lord. Conflicts that are worth fighting for are such as moral and value issues, spiritual warfare, evil desires, or physical attack. “When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.” (Galatians 2:11) If someone is going to assault you or a family member and all means available to involve the authorities is exhausted, then we fight. I personally do not get into fist fights, but as a youth pastor, I was on a trip where one of my girls was being assaulted and I had to respond to that situation with physical force or the girl would have been raped. There have been numerous times I had to keep bad intentioned people away from my group to protect them and even use physical force. We as leaders must protect the people God entrusts to us. In working in some inner-city areas, I hired security to prevent potential problems with various events. Yes we are to trust in the Lord, but we are also to use commonsense and practical judgment. As Jesus told His disciples to buy a sword, we to need to follow suit. I do not believe we need to literally be buying swords and wearing guns like the old west. But, we do need to protect the people under our care. A case in point, several years ago I was doing some intervention counseling with a couple. The husband was severally beating his wife. So I put her into a battered women’s shelter. He then came to me very violently, threatened my life if I did not disclose her location. The police were immediately called, but there was nothing they could do. I heard that the husband found her location so I took some elders with me to the women’s shelter to protect the wife. She got scared and left the shelter and went home. The husband was in the process of literally killing her when we showed up; the police were called and we had to wrestle him to the ground. He was a very big man. I had to knock him out in order to subdue him. It was one of those situations that you may never have to deal with, but they do accrue. By the way, it took the police over two hours to show up as we sat on him; life in the inner city of America.
There are times when we as Christians are called to arms, as the song goes, “onward Christian solders.” As they said in the Middle Ages, “if the cause is just…”of course most of the causes were not just. But for us, if there is a situation that must be defended, we need to prepare ourselves and be willing to fight for our Lord. Conflicts that are worth fighting for are such as moral and value issues, spiritual warfare, evil desires, or physical attack.
“When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.” (Galatians 2:11)
If someone is going to assault you or a family member and all means available to involve the authorities is exhausted, then we fight. I personally do not get into fist fights, but as a youth pastor, I was on a trip where one of my girls was being assaulted and I had to respond to that situation with physical force or the girl would have been raped. There have been numerous times I had to keep bad intentioned people away from my group to protect them and even use physical force. We as leaders must protect the people God entrusts to us. In working in some inner-city areas, I hired security to prevent potential problems with various events. Yes we are to trust in the Lord, but we are also to use commonsense and practical judgment. As Jesus told His disciples to buy a sword, we to need to follow suit. I do not believe we need to literally be buying swords and wearing guns like the old west. But, we do need to protect the people under our care.
A case in point, several years ago I was doing some intervention counseling with a couple. The husband was severally beating his wife. So I put her into a battered women’s shelter. He then came to me very violently, threatened my life if I did not disclose her location. The police were immediately called, but there was nothing they could do. I heard that the husband found her location so I took some elders with me to the women’s shelter to protect the wife. She got scared and left the shelter and went home. The husband was in the process of literally killing her when we showed up; the police were called and we had to wrestle him to the ground. He was a very big man. I had to knock him out in order to subdue him. It was one of those situations that you may never have to deal with, but they do accrue. By the way, it took the police over two hours to show up as we sat on him; life in the inner city of America.[ read more...]
One of the reasons so many ministries become discouraged and too often fail is the inability to understand God's timing. Having lived for the Lord for over 25 years and served Him in ministry for over 20, I admit that there are very few times when God acts when I think He should.
In my own ministry, this has caused me much grief and discouragement. I'm an action person. When I see a job that needs to be done, I find a way to get it done before others even realize there was a need. It drives me nuts when I see other people drag their feet when there should be action in a needful situation. So waiting on God who does not operate in the same time zone as I do has been very hard. (CAN I GET A WITNESS?)[ read more...]
In one of our recent family devotions, my wife and I sat our three children down to talk about the importance of 'family.' We do this ever so often because our children, and probably yours as well, often withdraw into their own world of fantasy and ignore the rest of the family. They each have their own room and their own ideas about how to spend their free time. If we allow them, they will shut themselves out from the rest of us to do their thing. While this can be cute when they are very young, my wife and I have noticed that it lends itself strongly to an attitude of selfishness. It becomes all about 'me' and less about others in the family. When the kids do get together, it becomes a war of words or worse, as each of them stand up for what they feel is 'their rights'. They have no sympathy or compassion for their siblings. It is almost as if they desire to build their own little 'kingdom' or 'empire' in their own little space.
As I was thinking about this it struck me that this is also a danger for all of us in ministry. If we are not careful, we can allow ourselves to get caught up in building 'our kingdom' instead of building 'His Kingdom.' Even though we feel like we are doing the work of Christ, it can become more about 'me' and less about others. There is a grey area here where the lines of demarcation become blurred. 'His Kingdom' begins to blend into 'my kingdom.' Motives become mismanaged. Desires turn dangerous. And it is not too long until 'my kingdom' becomes more important than anything or anybody else. Because of this danger, we all need to test ourselves every so often. We do this by asking; How do I feel about the others in this Kingdom? Do I truly have sympathy and compassion for their needs? Or, are my desires more important?
As we all do, I understand the importance of caring for others, but recently, while listening to a Jewish Rabbi, this understanding became crystal clear.
Rabbi Daniel Lapin was speaking of the typical Orthodox Jewish family. I paraphrase his words;
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Why is it that everywhere in the world the Jewish people are so successful and wealthy? Why are their families so close knit and strong? Why is there very little divorce?
The obvious answer is they put God first. However, beyond that, it is because of their strong sense of 'family'.
The origin of the Hebrew word for 'family' means; to serve. A family is not a family unless they serve one another. Brother serves brother. Sister serves sister. Husbands serve their wives. They put others needs in front of their own. The Jewish people live this way.
From the earliest messages of the Gospel that were preached by Jesus, until today, preachers have wanted their message to be heard by the masses. We have done everything we could to ensure that our preaching can be heard.
1And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret,
2And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets.
3And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.
There was a twofold purpose in Jesus using the ship as a preaching platform. The first reason was that as vs 1 mentions, the people were pressing against him. The crowd was getting too great. As with any size crowd of people, the natural voice can only go so far. The more people you add to the crowd the less His voice could travel as sound bounces off of obstacles which, in turn, hindered His ability to get His message across to everyone that was there.
This brings us to the second reason why Jesus launched out onto the ship to preach. Sound carries extremely well across water. From the ship, more people could line the shore of the lake and His voice would carry to them without being hindered. (Have you ever been on one side of the lake and heard the voices of people speaking on the other side which might be thousands of feet away? When the wind is still, you can literally hear a casual voice speaking from thousands of feet away as the sound travels across the surface of the lake without hindrance.)
Jesus took full advantage of this simple technique. However primitive Jesus’ sound system was on this day, it worked. It enabled him to get His message to many more people than His previous method of simply standing or sitting in a place on the beach as He taught.
Preachers today face the same dilemma most often. We struggle to get our voice out to more people. We purchase sound systems costing everywhere from hundreds, to literally tens of thousands, of dollars for the simple purpose of getting more people to hear our preaching. We oftentimes stop at nothing to get our message across to more people.[ read more...]